In the spring months of 1851 the elaborate installations and decorations for the exhibits were completed, which took away a lot of the Crystal Palace’s lightness. Furthermore, the more than one million exhibits had to be obtained and placed. The London press had raised expectations very high. The whole city was feverishly looking forward to the opening of the gates. Numerous handbooks and guides were offered by official distributors and street vendors. Even a trade in souvenirs with depictions of the Crystal Palace on all sorts of objects had been established.
At the opening on 1 May 1851, the placement of exhibits was far from completed. But the festively decorated cross nave with its much admired crystal well in its middle offered an exalted backdrop for the festivities, which were staged in all Victorian pomp. The Queen herself, as can be gathered from her diary, was thoroughly impressed. 25,000 visitors filled the Crystal Palace’s naves. On the city streets, an immense crowd were waiting for the arrival of the Queen and her husband. At twelve o’clock sharp, they entered the exhibition site, accompanied by the thunder of cannons, fanfares and the cheers of the crowd. After a prayer by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the performance of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah’ by the collective London choirs and the great organ, Prince Albert stepped forward and, as chairman of the Royal Commission, delivered the opening speech. He once again described the aim of the exhibition as “the fertile promotion of all branches of human diligence and the strengthening of the bonds of peace amongst all the nations of the earth.” This was followed by a tour of the exhibition. In a festive progression, the Royal Commission together with Joseph Paxton and the contractors Fox and Henderson in the lead, the diplomats and foreign dignitaries, and finally the Queen followed by her courtiers, paraded through the building. Having returned to her throne, Queen Victoria, again accompanied by fanfares and rounds of salutes, declared the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’ open.
|Year: 1851||City: London||Country: Great Britain|
|Duration: 1st May - 11th October 1851|